Thursday, 12 September 2013

The 9-5er's guide to surviving the desk job.

I'm in a long distance relationship with sleep. Oh, how I miss the feeling of the soft, down-filled pillows and the burrito-wrapping of duvets that I so very much enjoy.

Sleep goes by for any student or office-worker, and as tempting it is to snooze through in front of the 13-inch screen, we've all got to keep moving in order to stay healthy.

"But I'm working at a desk every day, how on Earth can I be active in an office?"

I'm not talking burpees by the water cooler, so slow your roll. I'm talking about simple ways to avoid the dreaded 
"office ass". 

"Office ass"; Noun; Definition: having the behind perfectly sculpted by the seat of your office chair due to not getting off of all.

Researchers have said that a sedentary lifestyle is one of the biggest killers, so if we're sitting on our behinds for 8-9 hours a day, then sitting at home, then sleeping, how on earth are we supposed to expect the weight to come off?

I'm not only specifying weight loss here. Heart health, back pains, all of these ailments can be fixed by implementing a few things in your daily routine.
I've looked online for what others recommend when it comes to staying active in the office, and I've got to tell you, I found some pretty ridiculous tips.

Things like "running up stairs during your lunch break for 10 mins for a quick HiiT workout" and "20 push ups every time you get up for the WC". As good as they may be for general fitness, I have yet to meet someone willing (or able) to sweat it out in a suit.

I mean, have you ever met someone during a meeting and thought, "She/He needs to be sweatier"? No. Because suits aren't meant to be sweat in. That's what jump-suits are for (heyoo transition win? No? Alright..).
Besides, the list that I have come up with aren't only exercise-based. It goes through nutrition as well. So, grab your cup of Jo and notepad and let's begin.

1. Food Prep.

I can't stress enough that food prep is key for any fitness/health goal. Some of you have mentioned that you don't know what to make that's quick/easy/simple/tasty, and all I have to say is this:

Get creative.

Some of my favourite and most common lunches i pack are a simple case of peeled veggies, boiled eggs, some grain (quinoa or brown rice), and some nuts to snack on. 

For example, today's lunch is just that. Instead of having a calorie/sugar/fat ridden dip of (conventional) mayo or salad dressing out the bottle, I dipped my veggies in brown mustard.

I know it looks simple, that's because it is. The key is how you spice things up.

Personally, I give a good shake of cayenne pepper onto my eggs and quinoa, along with a generous squeeze of lemon, a tablespoon of coconut oil, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and a bit of cinnamon.

Trust me, cayenne and cinnamon are an amazing blend. 

If you can't stand the thought of mustard and don't know what to dip your veggies in, try a bit of greek yogurt with lemon, cayenne, cinnamon, paprika, a teeeny bit of tumeric, salt and pepper. That packs a powerful amount of anti-oxidants and healthy kicks into your food.

I like to organize my foods into "categories". So, the raw veggies will be my "main snack", the almonds/nuts my "after lunch snack", the quinoa and eggs my "main meal". But then again I just have to deal with a little OCD. 

The "main meal" usually has the grains.

Cook your quinoa/brown rice/sweet potato/vermicelli IN ADVANCE.

So, while you're watching your tv show or pumping iron, take a few minutes beforehand to put the stuff into a pot with the alarm on so that you can have a good amount to keep you going through a few days. This goes for everything you cook: soups and salads especially.

Once you're done with your workout, or when you're preparing your dinner for the evening, take an extra 10 minutes to peel and slice an extra serving of vegetables. Boom, there's another meal done. 

If you've roasted a chicken for dinner, put aside a piece to rip up and toss into a salad (or rice).
Tip: squeeze lemon and sprinkle cayenne pepper on everything. The health benefits are amazing and it makes your food that bit extra yummy.

One main point that I'd like to stress is that it's called "PREP" for a reason. Who has time in the morning to cook up quinoa and soups and salads?  By doing this the night before you can eliminate the "I don't have time" factor and start controlling what you eat rather than settling for the nutrition-void subway foot-long that you frequent.

2. Drink enough tea to drown an Englishman.

Being an honorary (and technical) Brit, I do love my tea. I have an entire drawer in the office dedicated to all kinds of teas so that I can sip till my heart's content. Oh I'm not joking..

I have a rule for the office: "Refill, refill, refill." 
If my mug is empty, I'll get up and brew another cup. 
If I'm done drinking my cup of coffee, I make sure to re-hydrate twice-fold. I like to keep bottles of water right next to me so that it becomes second-nature.
Yes, you do need to use the bathroom often, but that's a passable side effect to staying hydrated.

There's another reason why I make tea so often....

3. Get up shake it.

Every 30-45 mins (or every time my mug is empty), get up, stretch, walk around the office, go use the WC, just MOVE

If you're in an environment where you can't stand while using your laptop, make sure to get up every so often to stretch out your back and legs. 

Stretch out your arms, shoulder, neck, and back, making sure to breathe deeply to relax your mind and give your eyes a rest. Go to the WC and do some squats, lunges, wall-squats, anything that might be a little embarrassing to be seen doing by coworkers.

When sitting at your desk, make sure you're sitting up straight, and that your posture is correct. This can be a pain to do in the beginning, but once you train your body to do so it'll get easier. Your neck and back will thank you.

Some ways to utilize your office chair in a quick workout (sans sweat) can be found here:
, but I suggest saving some of those for when the boss isn't around.
For some "secret" exercises, check out this link:

Having an exercise ball to sit on instead of a chair is a great way to stay balanced, correct your posture, and work on your core all at the same time. Besides, you can bounce on it, what else do you need?

4. Elevate your results by taking the stairs.

I should be shot for that pun.  But hey, dealwiddit. 

Contrary to what I first mentioned, taking the stairs doesn't have to make you a hot mess.

Instead, when going up the steps, take two at a time, pushing into your heels and engaging your core to keep your back straight. By doing this, you work your muscles without ending up looking like you, well, ran up a flight of stairs.

5. Rest

One of the most important things that is most usually looked over is rest.

I, myself, am very bad when it comes to getting an adequate amount of rest. 
When you're training, working out, or just want to survive a day of work without the coffee, rest is key. Sleeping is the best thing you can do for your body, and not only, it helps with weight loss. Aim for 6-8 hours every night, as often as you can.

6. Exercise

Gone are the days where I thought it was all about running for 1 hour on the treadmill to get my cardio in. No no no. If you want energy for the day, wake up, wash up, and do a quick 5-10 minute HIIT workout.

The good thing about HiiT/bodyweight training is that it gives you energy as oppose to uses it up.  And you can do it just before jumping into the shower. You can make up your own workouts, but here are some that you can adapt them from:

and BOOM, you haven't even had your coffee yet and you've got one workout under your belt.
These can also be done when you run home for a lunch break. The beauty of HiiT is that it's so versatile, and easily adaptable.

Some of you have asked me for lunch ideas, so I wrote down a list of easy to cook meals/foods that can be combined for a filling office-meal.

Food prep:
-Chicken/meat. Roasted, baked, any leftover meats can be a great protein tossed in with quinoa or salad. John West's canned Wild Alaskan salmon is a wonderful food to stock up on, too.
-Quinoa/brown rice/brown-rice vermicelli/sweet potato/brown rice cakes
-Avocado, cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, salads, radishes, tomatoes, lettuce, etc
-Bananas, apples, grapefruits, peaches, any other fruit you like and that is easily packable.
-Nuts/seeds like pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, dried figs, dates.
-Soups. I can't stress enough how amazing soups are. Make a BIG pot of soup, freeze half of it and use the rest as meals, adding quinoa or brown rice into them to add protein/carbs.
- Vegetable Salad with lemon/olive or coconut oil vinaigrette; Quinoa with lemon, cayenne, cinnamon, coconut oil; boiled eggs/chicken/meat/salmon; handful of nuts/ seeds.
-Soup; brown rice cakes; sliced carrots and cucumbers, mustard for dip; boiled eggs/chicken/meat.
-Old fashioned steel-cut oats (cooked in water or rice/almond milk) topped with cinnamon, berries, chia seeds (if you have them); protein shake; salad.
-Thai-styled soup with sweet potato vermicelli (recipe on this blog), cut veggies; Greek yogurt with sunflower/pumpkin seeds and any other additions you'd like.
-Snacks of brown rice cakes with avocado, nuts, seeds, dates, cranberries (dried, unsweetened), figs, fruits etc.
Basically, you want to have vegetables in both of your meals/snacks, with one snack of healthy fats (nuts). 
The most important thing is to eat CLEAN. You can also check out the cheat sheet blog post I made on how to do that. No packaged foods, no crap, just real nutritional yumminess.
Now, I'm off to make another mug of tea. You get off your chair and do the same    :)

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